5-For-5:  How Are We Doing?

PlayBuild recently turned 5 years old.  We’ve come a long way since we started, but we still have a long way to go to stabilize resources and ensure that we can create long-term impact in Central City and beyond.

With emerging opportunities like the Claiborne Corridor Cultural Innovation District, and demands for more school and event partnerships, we are using our 5-year milestone to hit pause and take stock of our current performance, and our near and short-terms needs.

PlayBuild’s program delivery is driven by people, and we need funding to hire and train them, especially our network of community mentors.

Transportation will also help us stabilize our neighorhood efforts and to bring kids safely from across Claiborne and MLK and from other parts of Central City to our Thalia Street space.


Our 5-Year Scorecard

PlayBuild Scorecard for their 2017 Programs
Neighborhood Open Play – In the past sponsorship support and GiveNOLA funds have enabled up to hire community mentors and to produce a consistent weekly schedule of after-school programs and seasonal weekend events. 

Short-term needs:  funding to hire community mentors to staff Thalia Street consistently five days a week after-school and for weekend family and event programming

Long-term needs:  transportation to shuttle our PlayBuilders from different parts of the neighborhood to Thalia Street and to take small groups on field trips and other excursions

  • PlayBuild in Schools – We are looking to build on our partnership with First Line Schools, which is currently in its second year. Last week we hosted our Langston Hughes Academy 2nd graders for their first trip to Thalia Street.

These kinds of outings and experiences are key to getting our PlayBuilders out into the City to experience the richness of New Orleans architecture and neighborhood history firsthand.

Short-term needs:  We want to offer more field trip and learning excursions to our Langston Hughes students and to other groups of students across the First Line Network

Long-term needs:  In order to expand our schools program we need to invest further in curriculum content and growing our instructional capacity.  We’re working on those plans now and will share more in 2018.

  • PL@Y MLK – Our PL@Y MLK pilot ended in the Spring, but we’re looking to bring play back to the neutral ground, and to make the program bigger and better in 2018. We need to implement some design features on the corridor for safety, and to build a coalition of partners and collaborators who can help us create an Open Streets movement in 2018.  We’ll kick off in January during MLK Weekend with a goal of popping up weekly throughout the spring, and building momentum for an Open Streets initiative in the summer.

Short and long-term needs:  a local sponsor to support our efforts to create environmental design elements and offset costs of moving and storage.

  • Events – We’ve just wrapped our event season for 2017, and are going into planning mode for 2018 with an eye on April which is when our biggest events happen including Jazz Fest, Zurich Classic and Mini Maker Faire.

Short and long-term needs:  an umbrella sponsor to support our entire events program would stabilize our efforts and ensure that we can deliver a more consistent experience for kids and families across the multiple events that we produce each year.

  • “Learning Through Play” Curriculum Design– in the Spring we completed an important phase of Research & Development work led by Advisory Board Member, Dr. Michael Hanson and a team of Masters student researchers at Columbia Teachers College. Building on 3 months of research into how kids learn through play, Michael’s work identified 8 learning outcomes to provide the foundation for our Learning Through Play Curriculum, and guide our content development.

Short and long-term needs:  we need a long-term strategic partner or source or funding to complete the next phase of this work.


Our Season of Thanks + Giving

In honor of our 5-year milestone we are kicking off a season of Thanks + Giving to acknowledge the supporters who have brought us to where we are today, and to solicit support for our year-end fundraising efforts.

Next Tuesday, November 28th is Giving Tuesday, and we invite you to support our mission and our work with a tax-deductible contribution.

Our 5-For-5 vision and roadmap are ambitious, and we won’t get there without your continued support.


You can make an immediate impact on the work we do in Neighborhood and Schools with a $25, $50 or $100 contribution.

For our longer-term initiatives – PL@Y MLK, our Events Program, and our “Learning Through Play” Curriculum Development initiative we need deeper pockets and deeper partnerships.

We invite you to get in touch if you or your company has an interest in sponsorship, or your organization might be a good fit for a strategic partnership to help us reach some of our larger goals.

PlayBuild wins Play Everywhere grant to bring mobile play stations to Central City New Orleans

After months of hard work, we are thrilled to be able to share our vision for PL@Y MLK and to announce that we are among the 50 winners of the Play Everywhere Challenge, a KaBOOM-hosted, nationwide contest to bring play to everyday places and spaces in underserved communities.

The seed for PL@Y MLK was planted in April 2016, when we partnered with the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking for our second Fast 48 Design Thinking Boot Camp. Thirty design thinkers joined us for 48 hours over a weekend to rapid prototype community development ideas that would help PlayBuild engage a broader cross section of organizations in Central City. Plus help us serve more children in that neighborhood, which is home to our outdoor classroom where we do afterschool programming and host field trips.

Fast 48 Design Thinking Workshop 2016 -


Fast 48 Design Thinking Workshop 2016 - Mapping the neighborhood around PlayBuild's Thalia Street outdoor location

A key insight from neighbors and community residents was a need for PlayBuild to raise its visibility in the neighborhood (our classroom site is tucked away on a side street) and offer more frequent opportunities for community members to engage with PlayBuild’s programming and play activities. In addition, several members of the church across the street from our site expressed a desire for us to bring our outreach program to them and engage their youth ministry in much the same way that we engage with local schools.

Based on this feedback, one of the Fast 48 teams brainstormed solutions for “hyper local play.” This concept eventually evolved into the idea of “pop-up play events,” targeting a tightly-focused pedestrian zone within a 5-10 block distance of our Thalia Street home base.

Graphic showing first phase of Play MLK initiative, planned for MLK Blvd in Central City, New Orleans

When the KaBOOM Play Everywhere Challenge was announced in May, we pulled our team of weekend warriors back together and went to work on developing this kernel of an idea into a viable proposal.

We needed to create a mobile version of the ‘PlayBuild experience’ that would function as an extension of PlayBuild, yet enable us to broaden our reach and expand our neighborhood footprint. Almost like “PlayBuild To Go.”

Luckily, we knew just the people to ask! Leslie and Sam Davol, co-founders of the UNI Project, have been friends and founding partners of PlayBuild since we started. When we reached out to them, they proposed their mini mobile cart as the perfect solution for our needs and we agreed.

We submitted our initial Play Everywhere proposal in June, and in July, we were invited to the finalist round.

In true design thinking fashion, conversations with potential local partners led us to iterate the initial concept, which we decided to brand PL@Y MLK.

A big focus of our discussion was around using the neutral ground (i.e., what we call a median in New Orleans) along Martin Luther King Boulevard as our chosen location for staging PL@Y MLK play stations. A few team members did a deep dive into the history and significance of the neutral ground as we considered the pros (visibility) and cons (safety) of situating play activities along a highly trafficked corridor.

As we grappled with this conundrum, in early and mid-July racial violence flared in Baton Rouge in the wake of Alton Sterling’s death and subsequent police shootings.

With this context, the historic significance of the neutral ground – a safe zone where two sides in a conflict were invited to come and lay down their arms – took on a greater and more urgent relevance as we considered the day-to-day lives of the children and young people in our neighborhood.

Our tag line became: “From the playground to the neutral ground.”


PL@Y MLK – Phase One

Our KaBOOM award will enable us to implement Phase One of our long-term plan for PL@Y MLK – to build and deploy three play stations along the MLK Boulevard corridor.

We will build and launch our first UNI cart in early November and work closely with a host partner in the neighborhood to plan and manage implementation. Tulane and the Taylor Center will provide implementation support, volunteers, evaluation, and impact assessment.


PL@Y MLK – Beyond

If Phase 1 is successful, we’ll raise money to build at least two more mobile play stations and partner with additional host organizations in the neighborhood to deploy them along the MLK corridor.

Our end goal is to be able to program a zone of play that comprises the eight blocks from Simon Bolivar to Claiborne Avenues and includes our Thalia Street play space.

It Takes a Village to Design Play Everywhere

We’ve spent the past month working an amazing team of collaborators on two proposals for the KaBOOM Play Everywhere challenge.

We’ve been fortunate to partner with KaBOOM twice in the past three years, so when they announced the challenge along with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Target we were excited to think about how we could extend our mission through a few new ideas that we would like to implement in our Central City neighborhood.

The timing of the challenge dovetailed with the second round of our participation in the Fast 48 Design Thinking Boot Camp – a 2-day workshop hosted by the Taylor Center for Design Thinking and Social Innovation at Tulane.

We tasked our 30 workshop participants to help us get creative about how we deepen engagement with our Central City community and expand the network of kids and families that we serve.

Coming out of the workshop we invited Fast48’ers to stay engaged with us while we developed our Challenge concepts.

As a result we had a rock star multi-disciplinary team that came together to ideate and collaborate.

We’ve been on our block now for nearly three years, and we’ve seen and learned a lot, but with outside perspectives we honed in on some key challenges, which served as a jumping off point for framing our proposed solutions.

The community in our neighborhood is hyper local. The families on our block have been there for several generations and though a number of them were displaced by Katrina, many have come back. They represent a deep and highly interconnected web of personal and family relationships and friendships that all unfold within a 5-block radius. Even the housing development at the far end of Thalia Street is like another city for our local PlayBuild kids. We need to deploy more tactical play solutions around the neighborhood for smaller scale activities and to reinforce awareness of PlayBuild as a hub for neighborhood play.

Traffic and street safety risks limit mobility. Because we sit near the intersection of several major traffic arteries – Claiborne Avenue and MLK, traffic and safety are a consideration that prevents kids from crossing neighborhood boundaries.

Even students from Sylvanie Williams College Prep, which sits two blocks from PlayBuild are limited in their ability to come to visit our space because they can’t navigate the treacherous MLK and Claiborne intersection.

On a longer term basis while we think about solutions like Play Streets, for the short term we are thinking about how we can turn the transit zones in our community into play stations.

Churches and Faith-Based Organizations are under-utilized community catalysts. When our Fast48 team walked the streets to do a preliminary needs assesement, they mapped the neighborhood and identified no fewer than 10 churches in our immediate blocks. Each of these churches represents a community of kids and families that we would love to get to know. We are committed to finding ways to connect with these organizations. By deploying our toys and materials in partnership with church youth ministries or tying in with seasonal events and activities, we want to build strong alliances with more Central City church communities.

There’s a treasure chest of building materials in our backyard. Diagonally opposite our Thalia Street play space is the Uptown Recycling Center – a massive repository of scap metal, old tires, and every kind of discarded material imaginable. Two weeks ago we took ourselves on a field trip across the street, and weren’t we were glad we did?! First we met Alex Smith, a Design grad from Loyola who runs the business for his family. Alex not only showed us around and took us on a tour of his secret stash of finds, he also volunteered to jump into our planning process with some great ideas for and help think about how we could start upcycling materials for some future PlayBuild projects.

Massive shout-out of thanks to the extended team and associated organizations that contributed to this effort.

From our (extended) F48/Taylor Center krewe:

Antonio Alonzo – marketing & communications, IDIYA maker space (photography)

Maille Faughnan – PhD Candidate, Payson School for Global Development, Taylor Center for Design Thinking (concept review)

Kristen Hill – Candidate, M Arch, Tulane School of Architecture (renderings, and visuals

Mallory LaGrone – Elementary School Teacher (concept write-ups)

Lisa Paterson – Tulane School of Public Health (concept write-ups)

Marcella del Signore – Professor, Tulane School of Architecture (concept review)

Jordan Stewart – Tulane School of Public Health (concept review)

Partnering Organization Stakeholders

Heidi Schmalbach, New Orleans Arts Council

Chelsea Hylton, Project Peaceful Warriors

Alexander Smith, Manager, Uptown Recycling

PlayBuild Network

Naomi Doerner, Transportation Planner, Member, PlayBuild Board of Directors

Jackie InghlefieldPlayBuild parent & visual artist

Also big thanks to the Blue House for giving us a space to gather and work!

GiveNOLA 2016 Update

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU for sticking with us through the roller coaster ride that we’ve been on over the past 72 hours!

What happened?

This year, the GiveNOLA website started experiencing technical difficulties around 9 am Tuesday.  All in all, our GiveNOLA donation page was down for 10+ hours.

Thank you for an INCREDIBLE show of support!

In the past 24 hours with confirmation emails and pledges coming in from friends and family, we are now thrilled to report that

we are just over the $20,000 mark with gifts from 70 individuals!!!!

Please note that we are still processing information manually, and the final GiveNOLA transaction report is still not accessible.   If you made a donation, but have not received an email confirmation from PlayBuild please reach out immediately at info@playbuild.org.

Help us cross the finish line!

Countdown FB graphics - Sitll have time (1200x 1200)

Our goal for this year’s GiveNOLA was $25,000.  Miraculously and thanks to all of you, it is now within reach!

With only $5,000 to go, we are keeping the flame alive until the end of today.  Point your browser at www.playbuild.org/donate before 5 pm and your contribution will still count towards our GiveNOLA total.

Donor List

Thank you to the following donors who have confirmed their gifts since our last count on Wednesday:

Michelle & Mike Fries
Jack Harris
Carline Watson
Jamie Harris
Eileen Cannon
Gillian Gutenberg
Jennifer Barnes
David McPherson
Chanel Fischette
Tricia Nelson
Susan Champion
Leslie Davol
Katherine McKitterick
Lauren Liao
Caroline Wong
Lauren Bierbaum
Priscell Prillman
Kaatherine Stebbins McCaffrey
Douglas Thomas
Jackie DeHuff
Robert DeHuff
Karla Melendez
Veronica Chambers
Jolene Bastas
Jason Marsalis
Debroah Glupczynski
Shauna Sampson
Amy Hill
Sunah Park
Sherri McConnell
Kristen Sullivan
Matt Ouimets
Kevin Dehuff
Dennis Aeling